TRANSCRIPT - ABC RN Drive, Wednesday 4 March 2015

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Subject: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, family violence, Iraq

PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: I understand you talked to the lawyer Julian McMahon, can you tell us about that call?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I’m not going to go into the details of the conversation but I think it is important to say that there are still two legal procedures underway and that those legal processes absolutely should be able to run their course. One of them of course is an administrative type appeal and one of them focuses on the judicial commission in Indonesia and I think of course all Australians would want to know that both of those challenges are properly heard and allowed to be completed.

KARVELAS: Do the lawyers still have access to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don’t think it’s for me to talk about the relationship between the legal team and their clients. They are in close contact but I’m not going to go into the details of that.

KARVELAS: You’ve said, as I quoted you, that where there’s life, there’s hope still and that’s been the mantra throughout as we, you know, have been on this rollercoaster waiting for where this will all end and hoping that it won’t end in the way that this country does not want it to. Do you still feel like there is hope because the common view is once the transfer occurs, it’s pretty difficult to see the Indonesians reversing their position.

PLIBERSEK: I think obviously it’s an incredibly difficult time for the men and their families, that’s obviously what they’re thinking as well I would expect. But I think because there are still legal processes underway and because the contact between the Australian Government, the Australian Opposition and the Australian business community, diplomatic community, former diplomatic community, continues, that we need to focus on those continued representations and making them as strongly and as consistently as we can. We have been saying all the way through to the Government of Indonesia that they advocate for their own people on death row around the world. They’ve got about 229 people on death row in other countries and it does of course weaken their case if they are prepared to apply that same penalty within Indonesia to the citizens of other nations. We’ve been saying of course that these young men have made a huge effort to reform themselves but also to reform others in the gaol that they’ve been in in Bali and they’ve contributed a great deal to the community in the gaol that they live in. We’ve made these points strongly and consistently and we have to keep making them through every formal and informal channel that we have.

KARVELAS: On RN Drive, my guest is Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs. If you’d like to text us on this issue, our number is 0418226576 or you can tweet us @rndrive. Julie Bishop has today raised the prospect of consequences for Indonesia if the executions go ahead, and Tony Abbott has underlined that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia will endure regardless. Will we see any diplomatic retribution if these two are executed and what is Labor’s view on whether there should be?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don’t think it’s the time to be talking about those things at the moment. I think our whole focus and our whole public discussion needs to be on whatever we can do to assist these young men and make a strong case to the Indonesian government that while we respect the Indonesian law, we respect Indonesian sovereignty, we don’t for a moment suggest that these young men haven’t done the wrong thing and that they shouldn’t be punished. What we are doing at the moment is pleading for clemency, in the same way that Indonesia pleads for clemency for its own citizens on death row around the world.

KARVELAS: Can we move to another topic which has dominated the political agenda today, Tanya Plibersek, domestic violence. Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Labor Party, today he said that a future Labor government would hold a National Crisis Summit within 100 days of being elected on domestic violence if the Prime Minister didn’t do it first. But the Prime Minister says that COAG will work with the state and territory governments to reduce violence against women and children. Isn’t COAG more effective than a summit? A summit seems to me like a talk fest, COAG, you know, nationalising laws, kind of is a really structured way to deal with this, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important for state and territory leaders to be involved in the reform process but they can be more effectively involved in the reform process when they’re working with people who staff front line services, with legal representatives who deal with women who have left violent relationships and struggle to get protection, with counsellors who have seen the effect on women and children of domestic violence, with the police officers who have to enforce our laws including cross border protection for women who are fleeing across borders. I think certainly state and territory leaders have to be involved in the process but they can  be most constructively involved when they’re informed by the experiences of victims themselves and the people who are tasked with looking after them.

KARVELAS: So the summit is the way that Labor wants to go forward.

PLIBERSEK: I just think you have to be a little bit careful. This is not how we want to go forward, this is one element of a package that Bill Shorten announced today that also includes substantial funding for safe at home programs, which are programs that allow women and children to remain safely in the family home and the perpetrator to be removed. There’s extra funding in there for legal services, of course a lot of community legal centres that support victims of domestic violence in their legal battles have had their budgets cut in recent times. If we’re serious about protecting women from violence, there has to be a place to go. They have to be safe in their own home or there has to be a place to go. And there has to be decent legal representation and there has to be an attitudinal change. The package announced today covers all of those areas.

KARVELAS: Do you think there is a bipartisan kind of spirit on this issue, on the domestic violence issue between Labor and the Government? It seemed to be kind of politicised by both sides today, you know, the Government was spruiking its way forward, Labor has put forward its way forward. Isn’t it the best way to deal with this trying to somehow  get together and do some serious law reform to try and deal with these problems we’re constantly seeing?

PLIBERSEK: I certainly do not doubt the dedication of every Member of Parliament to seeing an end to domestic violence in our community. It’s one of the most serious crimes in our community because of the number of people affected, because of the huge emotional and indeed financial cost. But I guess there are very different approaches to how we would handle it. I think we’ve proposed some positive measures, almost $80 million worth of positive measures today that include better legal services, better housing, better data that tracks perpetrators to see what works to stop perpetrators repeating their violence, attitudinal change and so on. The Government’s proposals today were for an advertising campaign with the states and territories, I certainly welcome that commitment, I think that’s a very valuable contribution to make and I applaud them for it. What I am concerned about are the very substantial cuts that have been made to the homelessness program, to legal services for victims of violence and community support with a cut of around $270 million to community grants programs that support the very organisations that women turn to at difficult times, to support women’s access to a bit of emergency funding when they’ve walked out of their house with nothing but a bit of clothing on their back.

KARVELAS: Last question on Iraq, in regards to the announced troop deployment to Iraq, the ALP was not advised until shortly before the announcement, with the benefit of kind of, you know, a day, 24 hours. What’s your reaction now to that and do you think this is the way that we can- this is the only way forward, that many experts have warned that we’re going into a situation that does not serve the national interest?

PLIBERSEK: I certainly understand why people are concerned about Australian involvement in Iraq because the war in 2003 was an absolute disaster. It was a disaster for Australia and it was a disaster as it turned out for the people of Iraq, as many of us said at the time that it would be. I think that the situation this year and last year is different in a few key respects because we’ve been invited by the democratically elected government of Iraq to help them protect their land and their people from an invading force, that is an incredibly brutal invading force that targets minority groups, targets women and children in the most brutal possible way. Our role is not a combat role, it’s a training role and we’ve laid out very clear criteria that Labor supports this while it’s not a frontline combat role, while it’s got a humanitarian and training role, while it’s in Iraq and not going into countries like Syria. I mean, as long as it takes the democratically elected government to protect its own people and only so long as the government of Iraq, its armies and so on, continue to behave in a way that’s acceptable to Australia. What I would also add to this it it’s very important that we watch very, very closely for any signs of mission creep. We want to have a clear response from the Government and continued updates from the Government about what the Australian mission is there, how will we judge success and what is our exit strategy. And that’s why we were so disappointed yesterday, instead of having this discussion in our Parliament, the Prime Minister had a press conference and then had himself asked a Dorothy Dix question but refused in the first instance to address the Parliament, and through it, the people of Australia.

KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining me on RN Drive.



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